Tag Archives: death of Mom

How I loved the Golden Chair! But Giving it Away Might Be A Blessing.

11 Jun

As a child I was in love with the Golden chair that was situated in front of a vanity table at my grandparent’s home. This small easy chair had been my mother’s chair. It was once upholstered in a print fabric, but sometime after my Mom got married, my grandmother had it upholstered in a golden leatherette.

I LOVED that chair. It was the perfect size for a child to sit in and imagine. I imagined I was a princess when I sat in that chair! I imagined I was on an adventure when I reclined in the chair. I would read a book and lounge there, dreaming. I so wanted that chair.

I used to ask my Grandma, all the time, if my parents could bring the Golden chair home and keep it in my bedroom. And my Grandma always said, “No!” She would not give up the chair.

She never sat in it. I am not sure if she kept it because she knew I loved to sit in it; or if she had another reason? My Grandma did not like to give things away. She did not horde, but relinquishing her possessions was difficult. Perhaps it was the results of her childhood in Europe in the early 1900s? I do know. I only know she would not give me the chair!

The chair was in my grandparent’s apartment in New Jersey. There was an area that was kept locked and separate. Behind the locks were the living room and my mother’s old bedroom. As I got older, Grandma would unlock the door and let me be there on my own to dream in the chair.

When they moved to the Catskills for the entire year, the chair went with them. It was always a part of their home. It was a great place for me to read a book on a rainy Catskills day.

Grandma did know how I longed for the Golden chair. She always told me that it would be my chair one day: that I would own their bedroom set and the chair. So I should not worry. She knew that I loved the golden chair. But I did not want to wait! I wanted the chair then, when I was a girl.

My grandmother died when I was 26 years old. My grandfather passed away when I was 34 years old. About a year after my Grandpa died, my parents had the bedroom set and the Golden chair shipped to my home in Kansas.

It was bittersweet. I was glad the Golden chair was finally mine. But I missed my grandparents.

The chair

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the chair. I had it re-upholstered in a sparkling geometric print fabric. And I placed it in the room of my then three-year-old daughter. It had the place of honor in a corner with a lamp behind it. I told her that it would be her reading and imagining chair. And it was. She sat there often with a cat either on her lap or under the chair. She read many a books in that chair.

When she was older, she used it as a desk chair, even though it really was not intended for a desk. I think she loves the chair as much as I do.

My Mom once asked me if I was happy that I finally got my chair. And I was happy, but I told my Mom I would have enjoyed the chair even more if Grandma had given to me when she was alive. Receiving the chair after they died put a pall on it. I told my Mom that I would have loved having the chair to read in all the time, not just when I visited my grandparents.

Most important, if Grandma had given me the chair when she was alive, I would have known that she really wanted me to have it. Getting it when she had passed away took some of the joy out of the chair. In fact, I never have sat in the chair in all the years that I have owned it.

My parents gave us items when they were alive. In my mind,I think the Golden chair had something to do with it. When each of my siblings and I had a child, we were presented a piece of family jewelry.   Artwork and furniture was given as well.   Yes, when they passed away a few months apart, we had many other things to go through. But they had always been so generous and loving, we were able to say that there was nothing worth fighting over! These were my brother’s favorite words.

I hope to be that way with my children. I do not want them to wait till I am dead to get something from my house that they really want. My husband always says that ‘we don’t own material items, they own us if we let them.’   There is no item in my house that I need, except maybe my computer.

I would rather see the joy on my children’s faces using something they love from my home. I hope that one day my daughter says to me, “Mom I want the Golden chair.” And even though I have always loved that chair, it would be a blessing for me to give to my daughter.

Remembering My Mother In Law With a Manicure and Pedicure

6 May

On May 12, I am going to get a manicure and a pedicure. I do this once a month. But on May 12 it will be a special event. My husband’s mother, Lee, would have been 90 years old on this date. She died when she was only 59.

Before I met my mother-in-law, I did not know anyone who went for weekly manicures. But Lee did. Each week she got her hair put in to a French knot and had bright red polish put on her nails. She had beautiful hands and nails.

I was a nail biter. The only time I ever had a manicure was the week before my wedding and on my wedding day, in an effort to stop me from this awful habit. It worked to a degree. And Lee encouraged it. She would occasionally take me for a manicure when we were in town visiting.

When she was in her last months, the lovely woman who had done her hair and nails for so long, would come to the hospital once a week to wash her hair and do her nails. She told me that as long as she could, she would help Lee feel beautiful. She did this for the last three months of Lee’s illness. What an angel!

My mother in law died so young because she was a smoker.  Lung cancer destroyed her and impacted my husband. Last year, when my husband and I were both 59, my husband was in a state of mild anxiety all year. I did not realize how much his age was weighing on him until we both turned 60. “We made it,” he told me. “We made it past 59.”

So on May 12, my mother-in-law’s 90 birthday, I will get a manicure and pedicure. It is not an unusual occurrence. I go every other week to have a manicure and I go monthly for a pedicure. But this time, when I am 60, I feel it is important to celebrate her 90th birthday and Mothers’ Day in a way that will connect me to her.

My daughter used to model bridal gowns. This was one of her favorite mani/pedis.

My daughter used to model bridal gowns. This was one of her favorite mani/pedis.

Having a manicure is a way to remember Lee. I took my daughter for her first manicure when she was seven.  She is named for her grandmother, so I thought she should experience a manicure at a younger age! We put a tiara on her head and made her feel special. She loved to go. When she was a teen, she often wanted purple polish or even different colors on every other nail.

She modeled wedding gowns while in high school, and would get demure polish then. To this day, my daughter still loves to get a manicure, but no bright reds for her now! She is into the more quiet French tips, where clear polish is put on the nail beds and only white or pale pink is put on the tips.

When my mother would come to visit me, I always took her out for a manicure. My mother never took the time for this pampering when she was home. She did all her manicures by herself. She only went to a salon twice a year, when she visited me. She loved going, but felt with her arthritis, it was not worth it. However, whenever she went she felt great! To me it was a gift I could give to my Mom.

But for me, a manicure was a must. I have been going to the same person, Mary,  for over 25 years. I was one of her first clients. And when she moved into her own store, Old Town Hair and Nails, in Lenexa, KS, I followed along. She has polished the nails of my Mom, my daughter and even my sister, who I recently took to the salon.

One of my more colorful mani/pedi.

One of my more colorful mani/pedi.

The pampering of a manicure was something I learned from Lee. Twice a month, I sit with a woman who has basically shared my life with me. We talk, we have silent times, we visit. I do not answer the phone, (unless it is my children). I chose a color to fit my mood. Sometimes I chose a pink or a coral. Other times I am bold with a blue! Other times, I have sparkling tips put over the basic color. And some times, I have one nail on each hand polished slightly differently.

I am not sure if Lee would have liked all these variations. She liked the same color every week — the same bright red.

But it does not matter. This May, a few days after Mothers’ Day, I will be remembering my husband’s mother with a manicure and pedicure. And in my heart wishing her a happy 90th birthday.

The Final Frantic and Frenetic Search.

20 Mar

“I put it in a safe place.” Seven little words that put dread into our hearts whenever our Mom uttered this sentence. They were always followed by, “but I don’t remember where I put it.” This usually happened right before my parents were going out and she needed a special piece of jewelry to wear.

And it had nothing to do with her age. My Mom started putting her jewelry into a safe place into our apartment in North Bergen when we were young. The problem was that she never remembered the location of the safe place for that item. She could find other items, but never the one she was searching for at that moment.

My Dad, brother, sister and I would jump into action. We would search the house starting with her favorite hiding places. (Places I will not disclose, because maybe someone in my family still uses these places.) It would be a frantic and frenetic search,

Sometimes we found the item, but other times it was lost for almost forever. I say almost, because often, many years later the item would turn up.   My mother had a beautiful silver and semi-precious stone wedding band that disappeared for a decade. It was found in the bottom of her closet, years later by my father, quite accidently. So safe places did work.

I think my Mom got this urge to hide items from her mother. My grandparents grew up in Europe and hid money and jewelry throughout their home in the Catskills.   They had a safe, but they also buried items in the crawl space and within items throughout their home. It was fear that led to this habit. The fear of the need to be able to grab something and run, but still have some money. Luckily they never had to do that in the USA.

They had owned a bakery in West New York, NJ. And my Grandma kept every silver coin that ever came into the store. She once told me that when a silver coin came in, she would put it in her apron pocket and later get a coin from her purse to replace it to make sure the drawer balanced in the evening.

When Grandma passed away, the family was in the Kauneonga Lake for the summer.  I had flown in from Kansas. Under my Grandpa’s instructions, we opened every purse, every shoebox, and checked every coat pocket.  He said, “Don’t throw anything out till you open it. She hid things.”  And he knew his wife. Because Grandma did hide money and jewelry.

We found over 900 silver coins: silver dollars, half dollars, quarters and dimes. Money was hidden everywhere. By the end of the weekend of cleaning, we had bags filled with coins and bills. The coins were divided between her two children and among all the five grandchildren. The money was put into the bank for my Grandpa.

After my Grandpa died, I inherited their bedroom set. My Mom sent it to me with items still inside. She could not bring herself to clean it out. In a small top drawer I found a little purse of my Grandma’s. Inside the purse was $10.00. We missed that! I still have it, put away in a safe place.

My Mom developed this need to hide things, I am sure, from her parents. And so she hid her jewelry throughout their home. It helped the one time we were robbed in North Bergen when I was in high school.   The thieves searched and destroyed my parents’ bedroom. But never found her hidden stash. Her secret and safe place was so good, even the thieves could not find it!

Later, when they moved, her hiding jewelry was so crazy, as they actually had a safe in their apartment. But when she died, the jewelry was missing. It was not in their safe deposit box at the bank. That would have been easy. It was not in the safe in their home, another easy spot. No, Mom had hidden her stash away. And it was our job to do one last search; one last mystery to solve. Thanks Mom!

My sister was frantic. She called me six weeks after Mom died and a few days before I flew out to Jersey to help clean my Mom’s items from the apartment. (In Judaism you do not clean out a person’s items for at least a month. So my sister and I were getting ready to do this.)

“I cannot find Mom’s jewelry,” was her comment. Not said in a calm way at all, kind of an hysterical laughing scream.

“Don’t worry! We will find it,” I replied. I really was not worried. I knew it was in a safe place somewhere in that 1600 square foot apartment.  We would find her hidden stash.

When I got to New Jersey, my sister, nieces, daughter and I started cleaning. We opened every shoebox and every purse. But I knew it was not in those. My Mom was so stressed by what my Grandma had done so many years ago, I did not think she would make us go through the same stress. But we checked everything.

My Mom was more organized. She had a little cloth eyeglass bag that she often put her jewelry in. I started searching all the boxes and bags she had piled around the shelves and floor of the closet. There were many! And then:


I found the jewelry. My sister was so relieved. She sort of sighed a deep sigh. But I felt sad.

‘I put it in a safe place’ had so much meaning that those words had a safe place in my heart. I can still vividly hear my Mom’s voice saying these seven little words. In a way, finishing the search broke my heart. I knew the last safe place was discovered. The last frantic and frenetic search was completed.


A Piece of Crumb Cake or A Crumb Bun Equals Love

15 Mar

Crumb cake and crumb buns, I can still taste them. Eating a crumb cake in my family is like eating love.   As the powdered sugar drips and the crumbs fall, we see and smell happy memories. I can not tell you how many important family discussions were held while we sat around eating crumb cake, but there were many. Crumb cake kept us together and talking.

My Grandpa Nat was a baker. My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in West New York, New Jersey. And among my favorite foods were the crumb buns. I say among my favorites, because I liked other items as well: chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies and rye bread. But for my Mom, there was really just one love: the crumb buns were always the number one item for her.

She told me that as a little girl she were go down to the bakery in the morning and check out the tray of crumb buns, looking for the best one: the one with the most crumbs; the one with the biggest crumbs. And then my grandmother would cut that crumb bun out for my Mom to eat.

I would like to say that she outgrew this need. But she never did. Even after my grandparents closed their bakery in the late 1960s, my Mom still needed a crumb bun fix. When she could no longer find them in bakeries, she turned to Entenmann’s crumb cake to get her fix! Yes, my Mom was a crumb bun/cake addict.

She would share anything with her children and grandchildren, but when it came to crumb cake, she still had to choose the best piece with the best crumbs for herself. We sometimes ‘fought’ over the best piece, but in the end Mom would get it.

Mom loved to eat crumb cake on a paper towel or napkin. She would put the cake upside down on the paper, and eat the cake first. Saving the crumbs for last, she would eat the biggest crumbs first and slowly work her way to the smallest crumbs. Near the end she would fold the paper towel so that the crumbs would gather together. Then when she had picked up all the pieces she could, she would lick her finger to pick up the last crumbs. I still eat my crumb cake that way.

Her children and grandchildren learned early on that Grandma would steal their crumbs when they weren’t looking. Yes she would. If she saw a crumb on your piece of cake that was extremely large, she would just reach over and take it. In fact, sometimes we would notice that the cake in the box would be missing a few crumbs. Mom had secretly taken those crumbs when no one was around.

But the ‘stealing’ went two ways. Sometimes, after my Mom chose her perfect piece, she would leave the room for a minute. Then my Dad would pounce, and hide her cake. He would act surprised and say something like, “That was yours? Sorry I already ate it.” But she knew it was close by.   And he would give it back to her like a guilty teenager.

Finding the piece of cake with the best crumb ever was an important goal. My sister and I soon realized it was best to be up early in the morning to look for the best piece of crumb cake. But it did not matter, Mom usually beat us to the best piece.  As my sister remembers, and it is true,  sometimes the crumb cake was missing a piece from the middle!  Mom had been there first, claiming the piece with the best crumbs.

Entenmann's Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

Entenmann’s Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

The tradition took on new meaning when the grandchildren arrived. It was wonderful fun eating crumb cake together. The crumb cake, which was kept high on top of the refrigerator, would be taken down. Everyone would gather around to look at it, trying to figure out which piece they would get. The corners, of course, were the best pieces. Mom always got one of those.

In the summer time, the crumb cake tradition was not only for mornings. In the evenings, as we had our tea, someone would always bring the crumb cake down from the refrigerator. The grandchildren would come running to participate in the feast. Sometimes it was just all the girls eating with Grandma. But other times, the boys would join in as well. In my mind’s eye, I see them all giggling around the table having tea and crumb cake.

When I moved to Kansas, I was so excited to see Entenmann’s crumb cakes at the grocery store. I bought one every time my parents came to visit. But more important, I bought one whenever I felt homesick. Having a piece of crumb cake with my children, always made me feel closer to my Mom.

Even when my Mom was at her sickest, she could usually eat a piece of crumb cake. She would get a look of childlike delight when the cake would be put on the table. She still analyzed every piece, looking for the piece she wanted to eat.

For a month, when my Mom was sick, my daughter lived with my parents. My daughter told how each evening, my Mom would ask for her cake. “Find the most crumbs,” my Mom would say. And my daughter would cut my Mom the best piece of crumb cake and bring it to her. It lightened the day.

When my Mom passed away, eating a piece of Entenmann’s crumb cake became even more important. I felt close to her when I ate the crumbs from the paper towel. Sounds silly, I know. But in those first months it did help. However, about six months after she died, the grocery stores in the Kansas City area, where I live, stopped selling the crumb cake. I felt crushed. I was devastated. I no longer could have my crumb cake fix. I no longer could feel that connection with my Mom.

I can still get crumb cake when I go back east to New Jersey and visit my siblings. My sister almost always buys a crumb cake for us to enjoy during my stay.  It helps. That bond with crumb cake is part of our existence.


I actually had a lamp made after my mom died that has some of her favorite sayings on it. The Sticks campany, which makes painted furniture, will personalize their items. And so I had something made in memory of Mom. On one side, I had them engrave, “Crumb cake ❤ Love.”








I Am Proud To Be A Cotton Thread Yarn Addict

25 Dec

I snuck over to the fabric store today. I needed one little spool of ribbon, but I knew it my heart it would be difficult to avoid the yarn aisles, especially the thread yarn that I use for crocheting doilies and table clothes. I am somewhat addicted.

I quickly found what I actually needed. But then, even with a creaky cart, I strolled over to the aisle with my favorite yarns: Aunt Lydia and Bernat Number 10 cotton thread yarn.

There were so many beautiful colors. So many colors I have not seen for a while. This is my favorite time of year. Right around the holidays the store seems to stock extra colors and extra yarns. New books filled with doilies patterns often appear.

Suddenly, I found myself in the right aisle, even though I had not been in the store for several months. The cart seemed to know the way on its own. I had a little chill of a thrill when I saw my yarns.

Yes hats and scarves are supposed to be here as well. A few are mixed in. Yes hats and scarves are supposed to be here as well. A few are mixed in.

Did I need any yarn? NO. I have lots of yarn in my house. I have a cabinet filled with colored cotton yarn. I even have started putting my yarn in the closet. Where there is supposed to be hats and gloves, now yarn has taken over. But I bought so much today, that I do not think I will find enough room there. I might have to find a new storage area.

But I did get the most delightful colors: a deep plum and then a multicolored yarn that goes with it. I got turquoise and teal, bright coral and grey. I never saw grey thread yarn before.   It is lovely! I even found two books that I did not yet own. I own them now.

Thank goodness for the coupons I found on line. It did save me a little on my spending spree.

I must admit, I stood in the aisle for a good fifteen minutes going through all the yarns that I liked and checking to make sure they had the same dye lot code. This is important because even if the yarns are the same color, if the spools of yarn are not made at the same time with the same exact formula, they often a slightly off. As the doily or other crocheted article ages, it will fade differently with different dye lots.

As other people came into the aisle, I was a polite consumer. I did move my cart out of the way. But I stayed in front of the yarn I was inspecting. Luckily the two women who came down the aisle were looking at other yarns.

Sometimes I can control my yarn addiction. When my daughter still lived at home she would stop me from going to the yarn store. But she is out of graduate school, out of the country and living far away. This gives me free rein.   I could fill my house with yarn and she cannot stop me.

I filled my cart with new yarns! I filled my cart with new yarns!

I actually took a photo of the yarn as I was filling my cart and I sent her an email of it.   Yes, I did! I told her that she could do nothing to stop the addiction now. And buying yarn gave me enjoyment. I could envision in my mind what I was going to make. One of the items was for her!

To be honest, I am not the only person I know who has a yarn addiction. My friend, Sue, is much worse than me. For a while she was using a loom to make shawls and afghans. She had tubs upon tubs of wools and yarns in color-coordinated bins, divided by yarn types, colors and weight.

My yarn cabinet is stuffed with yarn, books and finished doilies. My yarn cabinet is stuffed with yarn, books and finished doilies.

I am beginning to think that is a good idea, as my thread yarns are just all thrown into a space in no order. My main yarn cabinet is a bit of a mess filled with yarn, books and finished doilies. When my husband, who loves to do jigsaw puzzles, told me that my yarn cabinet would make a great puzzle, I decided I might need some help. I think next time Sue is over, I am going to show her my mess and ask for help. She has always been much better organized than me.

An additional reason for my yarn addiction ‘issue’, concerns the debate of nature versus nurture. Although some of my yarn enjoyment is learned behavior from friends who also love yarn, I am not the first person in my family with a yarn issue. I definitely remember that my paternal Grandma Esther had tons of yarn as well. She was always making an afghan or a sweater for one of her children or grandchildren or great grandchildren.   I remember her forays to yarn stores.

Yarn stores are much more prolific in the Midwest, in the Kansas City area, where I live. But near to where my parents lived in New Jersey, I finally find one store where I could get cotton thread yarn when I was visiting. This was important because I sometimes finished all the yarn I brought with me. And to be without a project causes me some stress.

One time I was in the middle of a project when I ran out. I was in the Catskills, and I was desperate. One of my cousins was going to a store in Monticello. I gave her a small piece of yarn to try to match it. There was not much of a choice. My lovely sea foam doily has a beige border. Beige was the only color she could find.

Having yarn was especially important when my parents were ill and in the hospital. I spent hours crocheting in hospital rooms while I sat with a sleeping parent.   Crocheting calmed and soothed me. While crocheting I could control what was happening around me, the only thing I could control then.

Perhaps that is why I find discovering new yarn colors so exciting?   Crocheting is a pastime that relaxes me and takes away all tension.

So why should I feel badly about this yarn addiction? I will not. I love cotton thread yarn. I like getting new books and trying new patterns. It makes me happy. That is it! No more making excuses or sneaking to the craft store! I am proud to be a cotton thread yarn addict.

A Sad Traveler Comforted by a TSA Agent Who Really Understood The Holiday Spirit

17 Dec

Four years ago my Mom had a massive stroke on Monday, December 20.   My sister was actually on the phone with her when it happened.   My sister told my Dad to call 911. And then she hung up and called my brother and me.   We knew it would not be good. Mom had cancer and had been undergoing radiation treatments.

They had stopped the treatments for a week because she had not been reacting well to them. But on this Monday the treatments were started again.

I went into panic mode. It was December 20 and I had to travel from Kansas to New Jersey as quickly as possible.   I went on line and purchased a ticket for the next morning.   I packed. I organized. I did not know when I would be coming home and what would be happening.   But I had a good idea.

I called my daughter in Israel and let her know that her beloved grandma was very ill.

I tried to sleep.

The next morning, I was tired and emotional. My husband drove me to the airport. There was not much discussion in the car. The main point was that I was to stay as long as I needed. And he would come when the time came.

There was an enormous line to go through security. Something we do not usually see at the Kansas City airport. But it was four days before Christmas. Everyone was in the holiday spirit, chatting and joyful.

But not me, I was praying in my mind that my Mom would still be alive when I got to New Jersey; I wanted to be able to say goodbye.

The TSA agent checking everyone in was glowing and cheerful. She was chatting with everyone; just a pleasant as can be. And that is a lot of pleasant in the Kansas City area. Then she saw me.

“Cheer up,” she said. “It’s the holiday. You will be through this line soon and be celebrating with your family.”

It was too much for me.

“No, I am not going to celebrate. My Mom had a massive stroke yesterday.” I was in tears on the TSA line and very embarrassed.

The agent stopped what she was doing.

“You need a hug, “ she said. And came out from behind her counter and hugged me — a long and needed hug.

I went through security strengthened by her hug.

I arrived in New Jersey, where my Mom was still alive. And I got to speak to her. It was so important to me.

My Mom died a one week later during the worst blizzard in the New York City area. 27 inches of snow fell. It was horrendous.   We could not be with her when she passed away.   My husband and children could not make it to the funeral.

There was nothing to be done. I stayed. I sat shiva in New Jersey and then came home and sat shiva in Kansas for one night.

Six weeks later, my Dad planned a memorial service for my Mom at their synagogue.   My daughter flew in from Israel. I flew in from Kansas.

The lines at the TSA were much shorter in early February. But as I got up the TSA agent, I was surprised, the same woman agent was working.

She looked at me, and recognized me immediately. “How is your Mom?” She asked.

“My Mom passed away,” I said. “I am going to her memorial service.”

“You need another hug,” she responded.

And once again she came out from behind her podium and gave me a long and comforting hug.

Only in Kansas City!

I wish I had taken her name. I wish I could tell her how much her two hugs meant to me.

I hear about how awful the TSA agents can be. And they can. I have had my bags opened, my hands swabbed and my body touched. But even when I am a little bit annoyed, I think about the agent who stopped being an agent for a minute to give a sad traveler comfort. And who really understood the holiday season.

How the Royals World Series Run Inspired Me to Finish my Mother’s Projects

30 Oct

I have a sense of completion. A sense of a burden lifted from my shoulders.   An empty container sits in my spare room. It held the pieces of an afghan that my Mom began knitting for my niece over seven years ago. This blue and white afghan made in Penn State colors was supposed to be used at college. That never happened.

But thanks to the Royals, I completed this afghan! Their drive to succeed and never give up gave me the inspiration to finish projects that my Mom had started years before she passed away.

My Mom started two afghans at the same time; a blue one for my niece and a green one for my son. She knitted large panels, completing five for both my niece’s and my son’s afghans.. She even started crocheting borders around the panels of blue that would one day become my niece’s afghan and green for my son’s.

But my Mom never finished either project.

My Mom working on the afghan for my son. My Mom working on the afghan for my son.

She could make the panels, but she never put them together. I have my opinions as to why she could not finish.   Partly I think because she had the pieces in two separate homes. Some she worked on in their apartment in New Jersey. Other pieces were completed at their home in the Catskills.

Any discussions of the afghans became a ‘tease.’ “Grandma, are you ever going to get them done?” She would nod her head and say she was working on them.

But she did not finish them.

My Mom died suddenly.  The afghans were left undone. But we were not thinking about them. We were trying to deal with life without a wonderful Mom and Grandma.

Nine months after my Mom died, my Dad died.

There were even more unexpected sorrows. My siblings and I left our parent’s homes untouched. The apartment and the house stood empty. We could not deal with the memories that awaited us. The afghans waited, forgotten.

In May of 2013, we began to clean my parent’s apartment. It had been almost two years since my Dad passed away.

While we cleaned, I found a container with some pieces of the afghans and some yarn, but not enough to finish the project. Since I am the only child who knits and crochets, I decided to send the pieces to my home in Kansas. Perhaps I could do something with them. But I knew she had completed more pieces. I just was not sure where they were.

In July of 2013 my brother and I went up to the home in the Catskills. I found the rest of the completed sections of the two afghans along with extra yarn, her crochet hooks and knitting needles, and the instructions she was using to make the afghans. My brother shipped these to my home as well.

I left the boxes in my spare room for a year, packed and untouched. I could not bring myself to open the boxes. I knew what was in them. I knew I needed to do something with them. But I just did not know if I could actually complete them.

But this summer, I finally tackled the boxes. A neighbor, a young woman I have known since she was in preschool, was raising money for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society by helping people organized.   Although I am usually organized, I needed help for this project. For my donation to the charity, I received five hours of help.

We went through all the boxes. We unpacked all the yarn, thread and instructions. We placed the pieces of the two separate afghans into two separate containers. I could see what needed to be done to complete the afghans. But I still was not quite ready to work on them.

I was not quite ready to pick up the pieces that my Mom had started so long ago. I was not ready to touch the afghans she had worked on so lovingly. My son and my niece both celebrated birthdays this month. Both are October babies. And with the Royals in the Pennant Race, I began to think more and more about the afghans. I felt that she wanted me to finished them this year. I could not give up on this project, just as the Royals would not give up on their October quest!

Game four of the World Series, Royals versus Giants. Since we live in the Kansas City metropolitan area, this is a very big event. My husband was out of town.   I was home alone, watching the game by myself. And I decided it was time. I could work on an afghan as I watched.

My niece's afghan, what my Mom had completed. My niece’s afghan, what my Mom had completed.

I brought now the tub that had my niece’s afghan. I put the pieces on the floor. I could see that my Mom had completed white borders around two of the panels, and started the borders around two others.   I set myself the goal of completing the borders while I watched the game. COMPLETED!

I then examined the pieces. My Mom had made each panel a slightly different size. I think this might be why she did not put them together. She did not know what to do.   I did not want to change these panels. I had three long ones (one very long) and two short ones. So I made a design using the shorter panels to go above and below the longer panels.

I began to sew them together, gathering as needed. I put the longest panel to the outside. And I finished that during Game 5! Then I began a border around the entire afghan. First I did a row of single crochet in white; then a row of double crochet in white. I knew my Mom would never leave a white border. So I added a single crochet of blue, and then a double crochet row of blue. It still did not look right. I then added a scallop. Perfect.

My niece's afghan completed during game 6. My niece’s afghan completed during game 6.

I finished it the day before my niece’s birthday, during Game 6. Yes even during all that excitement, I was able to crochet.  I mailed it to her on her birthday, in the afternoon before Game 7.

I thought finishing the projects my Mom started would be too painful to accomplish. But I was wrong. I felt a burden lift from my shoulders as I began to crochet. I think my Mom would be happy to know what I was doing!

The pieces my Mom finished of my sons afghna. The pieces my Mom finished of my sons afghna.

Before Game 7 of the World’s Series, I brought the container that held my son’s afghan into my family room. I took out the five pieces and decided what I needed to do. This border was different than the one my Mom had put around my niece’s afghan.   I began to crochet.

Sometimes my mind wandered to my Mom. I thought about her knitting and crocheting these panels. My stitches have a slightly different tension than hers. But it does not matter. When I crochet, I feel close to my Mom.

The Royals lost the game, but they showed so much vitality and good sportsmanship. Even when our catcher was hit hard in the leg with a pitch, he battled through the pain. I felt for him!

He never gave up.

Finishing my Mom’s projects during the World’s Series seemed like the perfect project to accomplish.   Soon my son’s afghan will be completed as well. Thank you to the Royals for a great October and for giving me the inspiration to succeed in a project as well.


Why I love my pillow!

8 Jun

I love my pillow. It is a big, fluffy feather pillow covered in a rose color bunting. When I rest my head I have the happiest dreams and most pleasant thoughts. I miss my pillow when I am not home, and have a difficult time sleeping.

I did not realize my sleep depended so much on this pillow till about a year ago. Over the first 33 years of my marriage, I had many pillows. But I never slept as well as I did when I went to visit my parents in New Jersey and slept with my pillow. I just thought that when I was home with my parents, I was not worrying about them. But I realized that was not the truth.

My pillow started out as part of my grandparents’ feather bed. I am like the little child in John Denver’s song, “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” This song always puts me in a great mood. I hear that song and I am immediately smiling and singing along. And I think back to my Grandma Thelma and Grandpa Nat.

When I was a little girl, I loved sleeping at my grandparents in the winter. First of all, Grandma always put a lightweight flannel sheet over the cold sheets. Second…was the feather bed (or duvet). I loved when she threw it over me and it cuddled around me. It was so soft and comfy. Filled with feathers and love. Grandma always slept with me when I was little and staying at her house. She would whisper to me and sing me Yiddish songs under the quilt.

I loved that feather bed. In the mornings, I would wake up and snuggle in the warmth of the blanket. My grandparents would be downstairs in their bakery in West New York, New Jersey. Once I was ready, I would get dressed and run down the stairs to be with them, have my breakfast and start my day in the bakery.

They took the feather bed with them when they moved up to Kauneonga Lake, in the Catskills for the full year. I loved our visits over winter break, because Grandma always let me sleep with the feather bed.

But it did not last for long. Eventually Grandma decided it was time for the featherbed to be washed and the feathers sorted. There were not enough good feathers to make a duvet again. So Grandma had it turned into several pillows.   All I know is that I got one: my beautiful rose-colored feather pillow.

It is true that many people cannot sleep with a feather pillow. They have allergies; they do not like how they sink in; they have issues. But for me…a feather pillow is heaven. My feather pillow is especially wonderful!

My pillow came to college with me and was home whenever I needed it.

But when I got married, my Mom kept my pillow. She had it in a plastic bag on a high shelf. No one used it but me. Whenever I came home for visit, the rose- colored pillow came out for my bed.

My children did not like it or want to sleep with it, better for me. They are the only ones I would have allowed to use my pillow.

However, at home in Kansas, with my husband, I searched for the perfect pillow for me. I cannot tell you how many pillows I bought over the first 33 years of our marriage. I never found a good pillow. I never got really comfortable. I used two pillows. I switch pillows. I tried everything. But I never really slept well. I could not understand why. It never occurred to me that I needed that one pillow.

When my Mom had her stroke, I flew out quickly to New Jersey. My pillow was there at my parent’s apartment. Once again it was the comforter of my tears. Even though I could barely sleep, I still felt better with my pillow. I knew my Mom had kept this pillow for all these years just for me.

My Mom died a week later in the middle of the December 2010 blizzard. I was with my Dad, trying to make all the arrangements. While I juggled three phones and a computer, I held my pillow on my lap and at times had it behind my back supporting me. It helped comfort me.

I left the pillow at my Dad’s apartment. I used it whenever I went to visit him. But nine months later my Dad passed away. I spent that first night alone in my parents’ apartment with just my pillow for comfort. Later people asked how I could stay there by myself. It really was not difficult. I had so many loving memories. I had my pillow filled with feathers and love. I was fine.

I still left my pillow there, after that visit.

But 18 months later, when we finally cleaned out my parent’s apartment, the time had come. I told my siblings, I am taking my pillow. I found a box and stuffed it in along with a few other things. And shipped my pillow home.

And for the past year, I have slept the most wonderful sleeps. I have had the most wonderful dreams. My family still does not understand.

My daughter says, “Mom that pillow probably needs to be cleaned.”


It was cleaned 45 years ago. The feathers are probably 90 years old.   Why would I clean it? When I put my head on that pillow I am a little girl whispering with my Grandma. When I put my head on that pillow I am a teenager in high school. When I put my head on that pillow I am a young woman in love waiting for my wedding the next day. When I put my head on that pillow, I am visiting my parents with my two children. When I put my head on that pillow I see my Mom and Dad getting it down off the shelf just for me.

My pillow that I love is filled with memories that I love.




Missing My Mom

15 Dec

My mother was a weather witch. Whenever she came to visit, the weather would go berserk.  Often my neighbors would call to find out exactly when Mom would arrive, to plan for snow.  


So it was not surprising that my Mom died during one of the worst snow storms ever in New York City, over 27 inches of snow in less than 24 hours.  Everything shut down.  The day of her funeral, her coffin was placed in front of a window.  As my niece stated,  “ I know Grandma is in heaven,”  a great, giant, massive clump of snow fell off the roof and on the ground outside the window.  Lovely torrents of snow arched upward.  Mom was there … heading to heaven.

My mother had the mind of a vault.  Any information that went in stayed there.  She remembered everything.  So when Mom suffered her first TIAs, mini strokes, we were very concerned.  My sister and Dad took her to a neurologist.  Mom scored a 100 percent on the test.  The doctor said something like,  “I believe you when you tell me that your Mom’s memory is not as good, but if this is bad, your Mom was very high functioning.”

And that is true. 

My mother was the glue that held people together.   She taught school for 30 years.  And the group of teachers who retired would often get together.  My Mom would make the plans.  After she died, the meetings basically ended.   One of the group, Pat, told me,  “It was your Mom who would call us all and tell us when we were meeting and where.  Without her, we just don’t have anyone organizing.”

It is true, all my organizing skills come from my Mom.

My mother was the kindest person.   Another teacher told this story at a memorial for my mother:  “The first day I taught at the school, I was worried.  Where would I sit during lunch?  Would the other teachers welcome me?  I was black and Cuban.  I don’t know why I worried.  I entered the lunchroom, and it became quiet.  Frances turned around,  “Oh there you are.  I have saved a seat for you next to me.”  And I sat there that day, and the next day and the next day.  And I realized I did not have to worry where I was going to sit.  I was going to sit with Frances and her friends for the rest of the years I taught.”

And she did sit with them for over 20 years.


My mother was a great friend.  Her two best friends, Wini, who she knew since kindergarten, and Judy, who she met in 8th grade, are still alive.  It is difficult sometimes to think of them without thinking of my mother.  They shared so many memories and adventures together.  After my Mom died, Wini and Judy were there for my Dad during the nine months he lived.  They still call me to keep in touch and to send love to my brother and sister.  Their love for my mom continues.  She was also a great friend to mine and my siblings’ friends.  She opened her home to them, always making them welcome.

She was a warm and loving hostess.

My mother was an excellent teacher.  Two stories.  Many years ago, when my grandfather was ill and staying with my parents, a young immigrant named Selma came to stay with Papa, while Mom and Dad went to work.  My mother gave Selma homework every day.   Not cleaning or cooking, rather her work was  learning to read and write English.  And when my mom got home from school, she would work with Selma on her studies.  Second story.  Several weeks before she died, I had to take my Mom to the emergency room.  An intern came over.  This young doctor said, “Mrs. Rosenberg. Oh my, you were my fourth grade teacher!  You were the best teacher ever.  When I found out I was going to have you, I was so afraid, because you were so strict.  But you were the best.  I am a doctor today, because you encouraged me.”

And it was true.  My Mom touched the lives of hundreds of children.

My mother was the best grandmother.  Every one of her grandchildren can tell you stories about staying with her and learning from her.  She made each child feel loved.   As my father said, for both of them, they did not divide their hearts of love with each child or grandchild, their hearts got larger. 

They both had very strong and large hearts filled with love.


My mother had a wonderful sense of humor.  Mom loved people and spread joy quietly wherever she went.  She had a wonderful way to make people feel comfortable and an easy way to laugh.  A story, after my Mom’s TIAs she lost the ability to sequence things.  So cooking, cleaning and laundry became difficult.  One day she asked me.  “Ellen, Dad says my memory is not as good.  What do you think? “   I answered:  “Well Mom, do you cook anymore, or does Liz (their helper) cook?  Do you do laundry anymore or does Liz do the laundry?  Do you clean any more or does the service clean?  My Mom got very quiet and then said,  “Well you know Ellen, I never liked doing any of those things anyway!:  

And that is true.  Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry were not high on my mother’s to do list.   Teaching, visiting, talking, loving were her charms.

December 27, 2010, my Mom left us on Earth forever. But she is forever in my heart and the hearts of all her children, grandchildren and the many people she loved.